The Chairman of the Board for the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service may be replaced by a former member of the Sam Jones administration if the Mobile City Council affirms the recommendation Jan. 28.
Councilman C.J. Small is sponsoring the appointment of Barbara Drummond, the assistant to former mayor Sam Jones, to replace current board chairman Kimberly Williams-Pettway, whose term ends Feb. 2. Williams-Pettway was elected chairman in October, but MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw said a new appointee would not automatically assume the same role.
MAWSS commissioners are among the few city council appointees who are paid for their service, with regular commissioners earning $1,100 per month and the chairman earning $1,300 per month. Commissioners are appointed to staggered six-year terms by the person representing their district on Mobile City Council.
Small did not return a call seeking comment, but Councilman Fred Richardson said he’d provide a vote in support of Drummond’s appointment.
“I would put Barbara Drummond’s resume against anyone else in the city,” he said. “She is a professional.” She handled duties as the mayor’s spokesperson, as well as other things.
But the appointment may face scrutiny from at least one other council member, District 4 representative John Williams.
“Generally speaking, there have never been many questions raised about any new appointments. But since some recently have been challenged, there may be a new precedent,” Williams said, refraining from any comment about Drummond specifically.
In October, as Jones’ final term in office was coming to an end, the City Council blocked four eleventh-hour appointments he attempted to make to the Industrial Development Board. Councilwoman Bess Rich said because those positions had been vacant for as long as seven years, she thought the proposed appointments were inappropriate for an outgoing mayor. Similarly, Rich questions Small’s move now, when Williams-Pettway just gained the chairmanship.
“When I was on the (MAWSS) Board, we started succession planning so you literally have to come up through the ranks,” Rich said. “You may be elected secretary and treasurer, then vice-chair and finally chairman. It would be a difficult task for someone to jump in now.”
Rich said her appointee to the board, MAWSS commissioner Sheri Weber, told her Williams-Pettway is doing an “excellent” job as chair.
“I would like to see Kim stay in the position,” she said. “If only by virtue of my appointee.”
Williams appointed MAWSS commissioner Jim Bell in 2000 and said he generally looks for a “person of integrity and a person who shares the values I have on business and government and service.”
“This is not just another board appointment,” Williams said. “MAWSS is a very important board and the only one the council appoints that makes any money if my knowledge is correct and it handles a lot of responsibility.”
Three other MAWSS commissioners, Tommy Tyrrell, Leevones Fisher and Dr. James Laier, have terms ending in 2014, and will be re-appointed or recommended for replacement by councilors Gina Gregory, Fred Richardson and Joel Daves, respectively.
Richardson said he hasn’t considered a replacement for Fisher, whose term ends in April. Lagniappe was unable to reach Drummond for this article.